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Evolution and consequences of floral signaling in plants

Objective

Most angiosperms plants use animals as vector for their gametes, and the interaction of plants with their pollinators represents a key mutualism for ecosystem functioning as well as for human nutrition. For maintaining interactions with pollinators, plants have evolved floral signals, such as color and fragrance. In the proposed research, functions and evolution of floral signals will be investigated in model systems representing key components of ecosystems and agriculture. In the first part, functions of floral signals will be investigated in the context of a plant’s dilemma arising through the need of attracting pollinators, but at the same time deterring herbivores. Fitness effects of herbivore-induced floral volatiles in different biotic environments, synergistic effect with visual cues, and the molecular bases will be analyzed. In the second topic, the maintenance of mutualistic associations will be studied in a so-called open nursery pollination system, where plant-pollinator associations can vary between mutualisms and antagonism. Cost/benefit ratios of this association and thus selection for/against nursery pollinators will be quantified in different populations, and corresponding floral adaptations, such as signals attracting/deterring pollinators/parasitoids as well as oviposition cues for pollinators will be analyzed. The third part will focus on pollinator/herbivore-induced selection on floral traits, adaptations to specific pollinators, and plant speciation. In an experimental approach, the evolution of floral traits under selection will be directly quantified, by imposing plants over several generations to mutualist/antagonist-driven selection. Diversification through adaptation to different pollinators will be investigated in a second experiment. In a highly specialized pollination system, floral signals mediating specific pollinator attraction and thus delivering reproductive isolation and their genetic basis will be studied.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/biological behavioural sciences/ethology/biological interaction
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/ecology/ecosystems

Call for proposal

ERC-2011-StG_20101109
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Funding Scheme

ERC-SG - ERC Starting Grant

Host institution

University of Zurich
Address
Ramistrasse 71
8006 Zurich
Switzerland
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 1 395 639,60
Principal investigator
Florian Paul Schiestl (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Florian Paul Schiestl (Prof.)

Beneficiaries (1)

University of Zurich
Switzerland
EU contribution
€ 1 395 639,60
Address
Ramistrasse 71
8006 Zurich
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Florian Paul Schiestl (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Florian Paul Schiestl (Prof.)